Monday, November 24, 2014

A Day Like Today

Good afternoon, gentle readers.
It's a surprisingly nice day, here in my little corner of the world.  A bit rainy, but warm and just humid enough to be comfy.  It was actually cooler inside my house than outside, so I have opened the doors and am airing out the place, a bit.
Today has been the sort of day where one can get things done.  It's a day for running errands and sitting down and cranking out a bit of story.  It's a day for doing laundry and washing up and looking at your kitchen floor and thinking how it needs a good mopping but, really, it's not THAT good a day.
Today is the sort of day where, once you've done things, you sit on your couch and crack open your laptop and check the stats for your blog. And you are shocked. SHOCKED, I say, to discover that a post you did on the fly, earlier in the month, has garnered a spectacular number of hits.
Once the shock passes, you get a warm and fuzzy feeling in the pit of your writer's stomach, and think that maybe, just maybe, you're actually not half bad at this sort of thing.
So maybe it's time to really take another crack at the sequel.  Because, who knows? Maybe, on a day like today, a day when you can get things done, you might actually write something good.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Raising Steam: A Review

I am a big fan of Terry Pratchett’s Discworld novels. I can still clearly remember picking up The Color of Magic and laughing as I read it. The books were witty, with interesting and funny characters, who often held up a mirror to real world situations and ethos.

So it pains me to admit that, lately, I haven’t been enjoying the Discworld books. I think my dissatisfaction began somewhere around Unseen Academicals. The tone of the books seemed to have changed. They became somewhat preachy, the characters a bit too holier-than-thou.

Alas, my dissatisfaction has reached its apex with the latest novel, Raising Steam.
The fortieth Discworld book, Raising Steam brings the Industrial Revolution to the Discworld, via the invention of the first steam-powered locomotive. It also brings a rather heavy-handed commentary on terrorism channeled through a dwarven schism.

My dissatisfaction with this book may have come in the way I read it. Unlike its predecessors I could not bring myself to sit down and read it all in one go. I had to stop, to take frequent brakes and allow my sense of irritation and disappointment to fade.

Irritation because the real world was intruding into my enjoyment via the dwarven fundamentalists and disappointment that the beloved Discworld characters seemed flat and uninteresting.

Honestly, I’m wondering just how much of this book, Sir Terry himself actually wrote. At times, it felt like I was reading something by someone trying to ape Sir Terry’s style.

Overall, Raising Steam was a disappointment. I cannot in good faith recommend it to either new Discworld readers or old fans.

In all honesty, I have to admit that this may be the last Discworld book I bother to buy.

And that realization, ladies and gentlemen, breaks my heart a little.

Monday, November 10, 2014


Forgive my bluntness, but NaNoWriMo pisses me off.
Because it’s all about volume, it’s all about producing a certain number of words per day.
And that, ladies and gentlemen, is not storytelling.
I’m not the most prolific writer in the world, but when I write something I give it some thought. I don’t just aim for a daily word count.
NaNoWriMo is all about producing 50,000 words in the month of November. 
That’s it.
That’s all it’s about.
Oh sure, some people say that it unlocks creativity when you don’t have to worry about content. But those are the same people who dump everything in their pantry into a pot on the stove and call it cooking.
It’s sloppy and cheap and the end result probably isn’t going to be that appealing.
As far as I know there’s only been one novel, writing during NaNoWriMo, that was a hit, Water for Elephants. Most of the other works produced during the event and sent off to publishers wind up in the trash.
I think the idea of a month devoted to writing is great. I just wish that the emphasis was shifted from producing a set word count to telling good stories. Regardless of whether they have a hundred or a hundred thousand words.

Monday, November 3, 2014

The Woman in the Woods or How to Write a Murder Mystery

Good evening, gentle readers!
I don't think it's any secret that I write by the seat of my pants. Generally speaking, plot outlines are for other people, not for your's truly.
That said, the one time I find it genuinely helpful to plot an outline, is when I'm considering writing a mystery.
Today, I thought I would share that process with all of you.
So, without further ado, ladies and gentlemen, I give you:

How to Write a Murder Mystery.

1) Decide who you’re going to kill. (Mrs. Haversham.)

2) Decide where you’re going to kill her. (In the forest, behind the house.)

3) What kills her? (A strong blow to the back of the head.)

4) Who killed her? (Abernathy, the groundskeeper.)

5) Why did he kill her? (Mrs. Haversham was going to expose their affair to Mrs. Abernathy.)

6) Who found the body? (Mrs. Moon.)

7) What was Mrs. Moon doing in the forest? (She was gathering mushrooms.)

8) How did she react to the body? (Shock. Surprise. She ran to Haversham Manor to get help.)

9) Who did Mrs Moon tell about the murder? (Sitwell, the butler.)

10) What did Sitwell do? (He gave Mrs. Moon a glass of wine and sent for the police.)

11) Who did the police send to investigate? (Inspector Knight)

12) What’s the first thing Inspector Knight did? (Secured the crime scene.)

13) What did Inspector Knight do next? (He spoke with Mrs. Moon.)

14) What next? (Inspector Knight spoke with Mrs. Haversham’s sister, Ms. Pool, re the murder.)

15) What next? (Inspector Knight examined Mrs. Haversham’s personal belongings.)

16) What did he find? (A love letter signed by ‘A.’)

17) What next? (The Inspector spoke with Miss Pool. She suggested ‘A’ was Archie Bogswell, a young man who was smitten with Mrs. Haversham.)

18) What next? (The Inspector visits Archie who informs him that Mrs. Haversham had a string of lovers.)

19) What next? (Knight returns to Haversham Manor and speaks with Miss Pool. She admits that Archie Bogswell was telling the truth, but she didn’t know who any of her sister’s other lovers were.)

20) What next? (Knight returns to the crime scene to find Mrs. Abernathy studying the scene. She leaves after telling him it was a shame about the murder.)

21) What next? (The Inspector returns to the station where the corner - Doctor Love - has discovered a note on the corpse asking Mrs. Haversham to meet with the writer in the forest.)

22) What next? (The next day, Knight returns to the manor. He speaks with Miss Pool and begins interviewing the servants. During the interviews he asks the subjects to sign a ledger, so that he can compare their handwriting to the handwriting of the letter.)

23) What next? (Returning to the manor the next day, Knight learns from Sitwell that the groundskeeper, whom he was due to interview that morning, apparently committed suicide.)

24) What next? (Knight goes to the Abernathy cottage where he recognized Mrs. Abernathy from their brief meeting in the woods. She explains that her husband took poison some time during the night. She found him dead that morning.)

25) What next? (Knight asks Mrs. Abernathy if her husband was having an affair with Mrs. Haversham. Mrs. Abernathy admits that he was, that she came across them in the woods behind the manor.)

26) What next? (Knight leaves, but, as he rises from his chair, he notices jars of preserves in the kitchen. The glass jars are neatly labled in Mrs. Abernathy’s handwriting which matches the handwriting of the note inviting Mrs. Haversham to the woods.)

27) What next? (Knight points out the handwriting to Mrs. Abernathy who admits that she sent the letter to Mrs. Haversham. When asked why, she says that she arranged things so the situation would become explosive, so the affair would end. That she convinced her husband - a somewhat stupid man - that Mrs. Haversham wanted to tell her something important. Her husband stormed out of the house, in a temper and, when he confronted Mrs. Haversham, killed her in a fury. Then he came home and confessed everything to Mrs. Abernathy before he killed himself.)

28) What next? (Knight returns to the manor where he recounts Mrs. Abernathy’s tale to Miss Pool. He also admits he does not believe that her husband killed himself. Firstly, because suicides leave notes and, secondly, because most men don’t kill themselves with poison. However, he has no proof to support his suspicions and so he cannot arrest Mrs. Abernathy. Miss Pool tells him she is satisfied with his actions and not to worry about Mrs. Abernathy, because although she may have slipped through earthly judgement, in the end she will have to answer for her crimes to God. Comforted by Miss Pool’s words, Inspector Knight leaves Haversham Manor.)